Monthly Archives: December 2012

January challenge: No more games

I’m probably doing things a little wrong by trying do 2 challenges at once in my very first month, but these 2 things compliment each other somewhat so I guess it makes it alright?

I won’t be doing: Gaming

For the month of January I’m not going to play any computer games.  I’ve had less time for gaming in general compared to when I was younger, but when I do have the time to play I keep falling into the habit of playing them to beat them, rather than because I’m enjoying them.  As a result I’m finding they’re eating up far too much of my free time and I’m not getting as much joy from them as I normally would.  So for January, no more games.

I will still be playing other sorts of games, such as board games, but that’s more for the social aspect and not “I must finish all these games in X amount of days!”.  If I pick up any of my side projects that involve making games then I wouldn’t consider that breaking this challenge either.  I have too many things to do with any of those before they’re in a state where playing them could be considered “fun”, and that’s not likely to change before the end of January.

I will be doing:  Programming.  Lots and lots of programming.

I have an exam that’ll be booked for the end of this month that I want to pass for work.  It’s the official Microsoft exam for the new C# spec, and while I already know a lot about the language there’s still a few gaps here and there, especially for features introduced in the new version released earlier this year.  My plan is to do at least 1 hour of research and coding every single day until I pass this exam.  Granted I could get away with the bare minimum, but since I want to make sure I also learn the language I’ll be putting as much time into it as I can manage.

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Posted by on December 31, 2012 in 30 day challenge


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My single New Year’s resolution for 2013

Before going on about what I intend to do next year I should probably talk a little about how trying a single resolution for 2012 went. In short it worked really well. While I’ve still got some work to do, I’ve been keeping track of how much I’ve bitten the crap out of my fingers, and I’ve got it down from close to 30 times a month to just under 5. Ideally I’ll have stopped doing it altogether before too much longer, but I’m just happy to have cut it down so much.

Going along similar lines to last year I’m not going to try to do so many things at once that I don’t get any of them done. Instead I’ll focus on just one single thing and doing my best to accomplish that. The problem is that I can’t think of a single task that I can work towards that would take me an entire year. Certainly there are things I “could” do, like learning to sew, or maybe finish up learning German, but if I spend the entire year intending to do this I just know that I won’t do anything for most of the year then I’ll either give up without accomplishing anything, or panic and try to get it all done in the last few months with mediocre results. Instead I’m going to try something I heard about earlier this year called “30 day challenges”.

The premise is pretty simple. For 30 days (or 1 calendar month) you must do, or not do a particular thing. This might be walking a certain distance every day, or maybe giving up chocolate or takeaway food for a whole month. I’m not sure what I’m going to do for every single month off the top of my head, but I’ve got a few ideas. Most of the time I’ll only have a single thing to either do or not do, but if it’s easy for me to “not do” something then I’ll probably do 2 at once. As long as I don’t go nuts and try to give up takeaway food, chocolate, visit the gym twice a week and walk 5 miles a day all at once, then I should be okay. Should be interesting to try this out.

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Posted by on December 30, 2012 in Self-Improvement


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My 2013 Reading Challenge

How my 2012 Reading Challenge went

Well, my 2012 Reading Challenge didn’t go quite as well as I’d hoped.  I managed to read 11 of the 12 books, and when this gets posted up I should be partway through the last one, City of Golden Shadow, the first book in the Otherland series by Tad Williams.  As for the reviews, I’m quite a bit further behind with those and there’s little to no chance of them being finished before the year is out.  They’re staying on top of the backlog though and I’ll be finishing them up early next year.

While setting myself this challenge certainly pushed me to check out some new authors and get around to reading other books I felt that 12 was a little bit too many, especially when you consider that most of the ones I chose were part of a series.  Generally if I enjoy a series I’d like to keep on reading through it until I start to get bored, which meant I finished reading 16 books before I finally started on the 3rd book on my list in late April (Storm Front, first of the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher).  I then had to force myself to not continue on with a series just to try and catch up with my list, which then ended up dictating the majority of my reading material throughout the year.  It didn’t help that I absolutely loved Storm Front, and if left to my own devices I would be at least 10 books deep into the series by now.  I’d still like to make a point of reading certain books during the year, but I think I’m going to tone the list down to just 6 books that fall into general categories rather than 12 entirely new authors.  Speaking of which…

My 2013 Reading Challenge

This time around I’m going to be reading whatever the hell I damn well feel like, since there’s no point in reading for enjoyment if you don’t end up enjoying it.  I’ll still be setting myself a target, but it’ll just be 6 books that fall into 6 different categories.  Some books on the list could technically end up under a different category, but as long as it somewhat fits then I’m happy with it.  That’ll also give me the extra time to read the rest of the Dresden Files series, catch up with Terry Pratchett’s new books, read the latest Skulduggery Pleasant novel, along with the other series I got hooked this year through trying so many new authors.

Deceased author

Granted I could choose any story written in the early 20th century and it would often have been written by a dead author, but I’m thinking of those who’ve died more recently.  I’m not going to place a hard limit on  how far back I can go, but around the 1940s seems like a good rough target for now.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury died earlier this year and while he had some very angry views on the subject of ebooks [link] he seems to otherwise have been very well-respected.  Of the stories he’s written Fahrenheit 451 seems to come up the most when people talk about him, so that’s going to be the one I’ll be reading.  Going from the blurb the book seems very similar in theme to 1984, dealing with a bleak, dystopian future where ideas are outlawed and free thought is heavily restricted.  Considering it was written just 3 years after 1984 was published (and within just a few days if the tales are accurate), it’ll be interesting to see how the writing style and story compares.

Book I’ve had lying around for ages and haven’t read yet:

I tend to try and keep my pile of unread books low, but since using the Kindle, the numbers have really started to ramp up.  I’m going to make a point of reading at least one of these this time around that I otherwise might not make time for.  To make things a bit easier on myself, I’m only going to include stories I’ve got that aren’t available for free.  There’s a lot of great free stories out there, but this is about books I’ve had an interest in and paid real cash money for, but never followed up in the end.

The Cuckoo’s Egg by Clifford Stoll

I’ve always had an interest in the development of the hacker culture over the decades and computer security in general.  I followed the early days through Stephen Levy’s Hackers, and more recently followed the exploits of Kevin Mitnick in the 90s before his trial, then all the drama surrounding his actual trial when he was finally let out of solitary.  The Cuckoo’s Egg follows the events that followed after what at first seemed like an accounting mistake, before rapidly evolving into a major international computing hacking scandal.  It’s one of the earliest recorded examples of international computing funded by another country, which makes it pretty relevant to my interests.


Sometimes it’s good to dig my head out of the realms of fantasy and read something based a bit more in reality.  This will usually end up being a biography of someone who I’m really interested in, or a highly acclaimed work in some other area which sounds bloody interesting.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.

This is one of those books that everyone with even a casual interest in Physics has on their bookshelf, yet I’ve never got around to reading it myself.  I did start to read it while I was at Derby University almost a decade ago, but stopped when I moved over to Stafford.  Should be well-worth the read.  As you can probably tell from the title, the book is an explanation of what’s known about the science behind time, space, the universe and everything.  Ranging from topics like the Big Bang and the existence of black holes, to the possibility of more “out there” topics such as wormholes and time travel.  It should certainly make for an interesting read.

Alternative Genre:

If my Goodreads list is anything to go by, then when I read fiction it’s pretty much always either Science-Fiction or Fantasy (or some sub-genre that combines the two).  I try to read a non-fiction book every now and then, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.  So I’m going to try reading something from a completely different genre to mix things up a little.  There’s a pretty wide spread of popular genres out there, with Crime fiction seeming like the most popular if the number of adverts in train stations up and down the country are anything to go by, but this time around I think I’m going to try a little historical fiction.


I hadn’t heard of Flashman until I stumbled across it in the general fiction section at Waterstones about half a year back.  After doing some research on (ie, Read Wikipedia) I learnt that it follows the story of a decorated war hero, renowned for his great military victories and acts of bravery.  He’s a complete coward, cheating, swindling or just outright fleeing his way out of every encounter.  He’s a bastardly bastard of a man and the exact sort of character who you don’t want to come out on top in any story.  He was also the inspiration for Lord Flashheart from the Blackadder series.  I’ve never really read historical fiction before (except maybe for Cryptonomicon which half-counts), and I’ve definitely never read a book with such an unlikable character as this one seems to be.  Yet for some reason it intrigues me.  I’m looking forward to seeing how such a series could star such an absolute dick of a character but still be as well-received as it is.  Then again, I also couldn’t see how George R R Martin would make Jamie Lannister one of my favourite characters of the Song of Ice and Fire series, so I guess it’s all in the strength of the writing.


For classic books I’m going to be reading any book that’s considered a “classic”, whether it’s something that helped define the genre like Dracula, or something that became infamous for the reaction it got after release, such as Catcher in the Rye which still manages to get banned from a school somewhere every year or so.  The age of the book isn’t really a factor here as much as how much importance it’s had.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

As far as the more well-known horror monsters go, Frankenstein is the one I know the least about.  Going back and reading the original stories behind such famous horror figures tend to be a bit of a mixed bag.  On the one hand you have Dracula, which still stands up as a phenomenally well-written story.  Then on the other hand you get stories like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, which for me ended up being a bit of a let down.  I guess we’ll see how well this one holds up.

Author/Book I’ve been meaning to check out forever, but never get around to:

Pretty much what I did last year.  There will always be more authors and books that I’ve never checked out before, but have been on my radar for some time, so this category will never run dry.

Under the Dome/The Gunlinger – Book 1 of The Dark Tower by Stephen King

I’ve never read a single story written by Stephen King.  I’ve seen quite a few of his films and several TV series he was responsible for, but not once picked up a story by him.  Considering he’s such a prolific writer and is the only man around who rival’s Philip K Dick in the number of film adaptations of his works, it’s kinda surprising to me that I haven’t read one of his stories before now.  Right now I’m torn between The Gunslinger, the first in his acclaimed Dark Tower series, or Under the Dome, one of his more recent novels that I’ve had recommended to me by several friends.  If I have time to spare, I may very well end up trying both, but I’m only going to make a point of reading one of them.


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